I have returned to a country of “protesters.” Israel has always had a powerful labor movement—strikes are the norm here. However, it is as if Israelis looked around the Middle East and said, “Look at all these people protesting…we want to protest too!” and then looked for any reason, big or small, legitimate or not, and began to protest.
Always the class clown, I said to my Advance Hebrew class today when we discussed the demonstrations, “Haval she’ain lanu dik-tae-tor lizrok.” (What a pity we don’t have a dictator to throw out.) It was good for a few laughs.
Amongst the Cottage Protest (protesting the high cost of Cottage Cheese) and the Stroller Protest (protesting the high cost of day care and nursery school) stands the largest demonstration is the Macha’at Hadior (The Housing Revolution), with Israelis demanding changes in the housing market. While I am a huge proponent of the free market, they do have a legitimate beef. It is almost impossible for a young middle class couple to buy a home, and rent prices soar because of a lack of supply. Would-be buyers cannot get a mortgage without 30% down. A modest four-bedroom apartment in our city, Ra’anana—admittedly, one of the nicer cities—can be over $600,000. In fact, the apartment we just moved from sold for $620,000 and it was a modest four bedroom.
Doing the math, someone in my city would need to come to the bank with at least $200,000 in hand. Other places are much cheaper, such as in the south and East of Jerusalem, in the West Bank.
What makes matters worse is that Israeli salaries are much lower than other western countries and we pay around 40% in taxes.
Furthermore, they cannot build homes fast enough. We are a nation that embraces Jewish immigration from all over the world and we need to constantly build to keep up with demand. Plus, certain Jewish families, typically from the US or France, will buy very nice homes in Jerusalem and use them as vacation homes, thus taking the home off the rental market. To sum it up:
- lower salaries
- higher taxes
- higher down payment
- less apartments
The protesters are sleeping in tents all over the country to highlight the problem. They have taken over Rothschild Street in Tel Aviv and even in Ra’anana, I can’t walk to the gym without encountering about 5 tents at the city center. The Prime Minister, who up until now has enjoyed an easy ride, is seeing his approval ratings plummet as he seeks to come up with solutions.
Having just battled intense heat and flying termites in Nigeria, I have no plans to sleep in a tent, but would be grateful if they changed the 30% down payment law. One good thing is that interest rates here are very low which slightly balances out the high cost. Please pray with our family that we would soon be able to buy a modest apartment. Thank you.